“In Memory We Trust”

Allison Gillingham is working on an M.A. Thesis that tracks what Americans from different generations and ethnic backgrounds believe about the Civil War. The interviews are being posted on Vimeo and are quite interesting.

I’m not quite sure what this individual is planning to do with these interviews, but it is another example of how social media can complicate our understanding of how Americans remember the Civil War Era.

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7 thoughts on ““In Memory We Trust”

  1. Nathan W. Armes

    Kevin,

    The negative connotation regarding social media as a tool to further understand history is somewhat confusing. Shouldn’t the utilization of social media be viewed as a positive force multiplier for all with a voice and an idea?

    Can you further explain how social media can complicate our understanding of the Civil War?

    Thanks,

    Nathan W. Armes
    http://the150project.com

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      I’ve said more than once that I think the proliferation of social media has had a profound impact on how we think about collective memory. It seems to me that in the past we relied on various institutions to frame memory narratives about the past, but social media allows everyone to voice his/her own perspective on the meaning and significance of the past. Where do we fit in the various interviews included in this post into our standard narratives about the Civil War? It’s not so easy. In that sense I see social media as complicating our understanding of the Civil War. Hope that helps.

      Reply
      1. The other Susan

        I disagree. I think we always had our parents, our friends, the movies we watched etc. and occasionally institutions of higher learning as sources for how we viewed the past. The difference now is that instead of just talking to our friends and family about our beliefs and reinforcing them in smaller circles, we post them to the whole world. So while we still hold differing viewpoints as we did in the past, we now are able to connect with people all across the world who share those viewpoints.
        As I was saying on Al Mackey’s blog, I imagine that back in the dunning school days there were social groups in the North and among African Americans who didn’t buy into that. They just didn’t have a voice, but they still passed it on to their kids and those kids used it as inspiration to do more research and write books. So I think we should give those fringe groups as much credit for collective memory as we give fringe groups today.

        Reply
        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          I don’t think we disagree. My point is that it is now much more difficult to frame a Civil War memory narrative given that we now have a much wider range of voices to consider. They were always there as you point out, but now they have increased visibility.

          Reply
  2. Nathan W. Armes

    Kevin,

    Thank you for the reply and I agree, social media has had a profound impact on collective memory.

    You are also right in the fact that fitting these interviews into the standard narrative is tough, but that’s OK and maybe even the point.

    I’ve reached out to the student with my own questions and interview request because the project is fascinating. The utilization of varying generations and differing ethnicities to reach outside the institutional framework of memory is unique and which I would have not discovered if it weren’t for social media.

    Cheers,

    Nathan W. Armes
    http://the150project.com

    Reply
  3. Bryan Cheeseboro

    “It seems to me that in the past we relied on various institutions to frame memory narratives about the past, but social media allows everyone to voice his/her own perspective on the meaning and significance of the past. Where do we fit in the various interviews included in this post into our standard narratives about the Civil War? It’s not so easy. In that sense I see social media as complicating our understanding of the Civil War.”

    I think in order to understand how social media has impacted our understnading of the Civil War, we need to begin by asking ourselves what Civil War memory (note small “m”) would look like if what we understand as social media (the interactive, online world where anyone can be a historian) had never existed. Before websites existed, I certainly heard people saying all of the same things they are saying today: the war was about state’s rights, not slavery; the Confederacy was not militarily defeated but simply crushed by overwhelming numbers; and that there were Blacks who fought as soldiers for the Southern cause. I was unfamiliar with the phrase “Lost Cause” but I certainly knew of the ingredients of that ideology. Anyway, I think the internet has simply enhanced opinions that already existed rather than create them.

    But one could also argue that in spite of social media, most Americans have a better understanding of the Civil War than they did many years ago. Seventy-Four years ago, “Gone With the WInd” was able to win Best Picture honors for 1939 though it painted a very romanticized and inaccurate depiction of the South and slavery. The real history lesson from that movie is how the film itself impacted (and still impacts) the culture. Anyway, fast-forward to today and the Best Picture goes to 12 Years a Slave. These two films feature the same subject yet they have nothing else in common. The thanks goes to the Civil Rights Movement to give Black people a voice and White people an ear to greater understand the truth of our history.

    Reply

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